GreenStar Looks Forward to 2010 and Beyond

By 12th Moon, Council President and

Bini Reilly, General Manager

Here we are just about to embark upon a new decade. The beginning of this new century has brought so many changes it is hard to imagine what to expect for this next decade.

The collapse of the economy in 2008/2009 has left many of us wondering what 2010 will bring. From day to day it is hard to know if the economy is in fact turning around. Planning for the future can sometimes feel like we are looking into a crystal ball. We have to gather as much information as possible and make future plans based on our best educated guess.

Looking forward is an important component of running GreenStar, both for staff and Council. We are constantly planning. With a strong foundation built through the work done over the past year we start this New Year with many things on our agenda.

Management presented the 2010 budget to Council in October after months of research and planning. Many of the plans for 2010 are in response to the mission statement and principles that guide this organization. GreenStar has a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. We recently installed a baler to increase our paper recycling. In 2009 we converted to 50 percent alternative energy sources and we installed 18 solar panels (for which we were recently recognized by Sustainable Tompkins), and we hope to install an additional 81 solar panels in 2010. We had a waste management assessment done and have newly created a “Green Team” to look at this report and determine other ways to improve our green practices.

During 2009 we did extensive remodeling at Oasis, but there are still a few projects left to be done. We will redo the floors, which are in need of repair, and install a security system similar to the one at the West End. There is a need for a larger selection of salad and hot bar offerings, so we plan to install a larger salad bar in 2010. 

At the West End store, we will continue remodeling as well, by rearranging the first aisle in late February. We plan to move the produce island to the front of the store and replace it with a bread and bakery unit near the existing bread freezer. This will allow for an expanded selection of bread as well as bakery goods.

Many other changes in the West-End store will take place behind the scenes. We will upgrade our computer system and scales, and renovate the retail offices and staff lounge. We will install a new walk-in freezer, an ice machine and new front doors.

Council has committed to making improvements and upgrades this year also. We have decided over the last few months to participate in various trainings this year, with the common goal of improving our abilities to serve in our roles as Councilmembers. First, we have agreed to take a Finance Training for a better understanding of GreenStar’s finances and how Council can be most effective in exercising its responsibility as the guardians of GreenStar’s assets. Second, we have scheduled a “Team Development Training” for Council, to be conducted by Cornell Team & Leadership Center over a weekend in January. This training is part of continued efforts to improve our communications skills. (Another similar training will be scheduled soon for Council to take in conjunction with members of management.) Third, with an interest toward improving our governance process, we have made the decision to explore different governance models, with a training on the Policy Governance model as well as training on at least one other governance model or approach, such as a streamlined and improved version of GreenStar’s current system.

Through the many standing and ad hoc committees, Council will continue to address many differing goals, including reviewing our Five Year Goals to ascertain what we have been able to accomplish, which areas are in need of improvement or reevaluation and what other goals we may want to aim for.

The Bylaws Review Committee (BRC) will also be bringing proposals to the membership for changes to our bylaws this coming year. Many areas of the bylaws have been identified as in need of updating or clarifying since last reviewed over ten years ago. Over the coming months, the committee and then Council as a whole will be looking to make recommendations on specific revisions that will eventually be presented to our member-owners for their final decision by vote. Our Finance Committee is revisiting bringing an additional bylaws proposal to the membership for a vote on the Patronage Refund system.

Also in 2010, Council plans on having an Ombudsperson in the position of mediator to assist in the resolution of any inter-personal issues that are creating problems at the stores. And, working with the Board of Directors of our non-profit affiliate, GreenStar Community Projects Inc., we will be setting goals and identifying target projects through which to direct our help to our local community.

Additionally, we will be completing the search process for, and hope to have in place by April, a new General Manager (GM). In conjunction with this we have been looking at various issues that have been identified over the last few years, such as defining the areas of responsibility and authority between Council, the GM and member-owners, Council’s ability to monitor the actions of its own members, and how Council can best orient and supervise the GM.

While the Expansion Committee has been ever diligent in looking for opportunities in and around Ithaca, you may not have noticed, as we have had nothing substantial materialize since purchasing the Oasis store in 1994. Recently the subject has been revitalized by the news concerning the closing of a regional chain of grocery stores, which may present opportunities for GreenStar. Management and Council are interested in following any course of action that would further our goals and connection to our community as well as allow us to maintain a strong financial viability.

Council and management will be using a “rolling budget” technique during the year to asses its practicality for assisting the Co-op in making changes as the world changes. Changes in the economy and politics of the country have had effects across the spectrum of normal businesses, but we, as with other co-ops around the world, are realizing our potential advantages as we work together with each other and with our community members. The cooperative model brought the concept of community-based business into the mainstream, and co-ops are poised to offer a real alternative to the traditional capitalist models as we move into the next decade and beyond.

The success of GreenStar is a direct result of our connection to each other and our dependence on each other to help build the best possible future. So, please, thank each other and yourself, thank the staff and management at both stores, and thank all of our member-workers and the members who serve on Council.

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